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Profile by Randy Aafedt
Carlo LaPaglia was born in 1921 to Carmen and Vincent LaPaglia. Vincent had a farm at the intersection of Pecos and Dobson roads. Carlo attended Chandler High School but chose to start working instead of graduating. He enlisted in the Navy shortly after America entered the war against Japan. After completing his training in San Francisco he was assigned to the USS Indianapolis as a Gunners Mate.
In June of 1945, Carlo and the crew of the Indianapolis transported a secretive cargo to the U.S. airbase at Tinian. Jesus LaPaglia, Carlo’s younger brother, remembers his brother telling him that the Brass pointed out certain packages in the hold and instructed the crew that under no circumstances should these packages be damaged or left alone. These packages proved to be critical parts for the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan.
The packages were delivered and the Indianapolis shipped out for Leyte in the Philippines. On July 30, 1945 a Japanese submarine torpedoed the ship. Of 1,196 crewmembers, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The rest went into the water without life rafts, food or water, clinging to anything that would float. Since the mission was secretive, the Navy didn’t find out about the sinking for four days.
Jesus LaPaglia remembers his brother talking about this incident. “It was a hot night so Carlo and several sailors went up on deck to sleep. This single decision probably saved his life as the torpedo hit the part of the ship where the men were quartered.” For five days and five nights the sailors waited to be rescued. Carlo told Jesus that the life jackets were cheap and useless after one day. But worse than dehydration, sunburn or hunger was that, “late in the afternoon the sharks would come and pick off the men floating on the outside of the group.” Every day, for five days, sharks picked off men. When help finally arrived, only 316 of the 800 men were alive. Carlo was lucky to survive the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy.
Japan surrendered shortly after this and the Navy discharged Carlo in late 1945. During his enlistment he married a woman named Molly and they had four children. When he returned to Chandler, Carlo worked on the family farm with his brother Jesus. After this he joined Western Farm Management in Chandler, where he worked until his death in 1956 in a car accident.
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